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Airport’s Phoenix Sky Train takes 1st practice run

PHOENIX — After years of development and planning, the Phoenix Sky Train glides down the tracks for the first time on Monday.

Mayor Greg Stanton will send the train on its first official trip from the East Economy Lot station, traveling a short distance to a maintenance facility.

Airport officials said it represents a sign of things to come, as the train is scheduled to open to passengers early next year.

“There are still months of testing ahead,” Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said. “But after today, passengers will come to the airport and see the train being tested on the guideway and know they will be able to ride it, free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning next year.”

The electric, driverless train connects the Metro Light Rail station at 44th and Washington streets, to the East Economy Lot, to Terminal 4.

Terminal 4 serves 80 percent of Sky Harbor’s passengers.

Passengers will be able to check bags and print boarding passes at both the 44th Street station and the East Economy Lot station.

Future phases will link the train to Terminal 3 (with a moving walkway to Terminal 2) in 2015 and the rental-car center in 2020.

It’s a $644 million project that is on time and on budget, and could result in 20,000 fewer vehicles per day at Sky Harbor, airport officials estimate.

Montreal-based Bombardier built the train, which when completed, will be the first in the world to cross an active airport taxiway.

“The bridge is high enough for a 747 to pass underneath so there will be quite a view,” Rodriguez said.